Finally getting recovered from a long but memorable week in Rocky Mountain National Park. We were on the road by 5:00 a.m. intending to enter the west side of the park by 9:00, as per our timed entry ticket.
It was a beautiful drive over Trail Ridge until we neared the summit where the view was completely obscured by dense fog. No pictures until over the top and on the way down. We didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the towering peaks, the elk rut was the holy grail of the trip.
A line greeted us at the park entry so we pulled in ready for a wait. But soon a ranger greeted us and we showed him our ticket and my America the Beautiful pass, which was good for a wave past all the lines straight to the front and around the kiosks 🙂 I love my season pass !!!
We were the filled with anticipation as we neared the meadows of the east side, especially Moraine Park where we expected the usual massive herds to be awaiting us. But what’s this, a kiosk at the entry to the meadows. The kiosk was expected at Bear Lake Road where an extra access ticket would be required to enter the heavily trafficked popular area of the east side, but not before our favorite meadow 😦
Apparently only one ticket per day is allowed so I was unable to add the Bear Lake Access and unable to cancel the current reservation. I felt like Chevy Chase at the gate to Walley World in the first Vacation movie 😦 We learned though that we could enter the Bear Lake Corridor before 5:00 a.m. and after 6:00 p.m. Well, although difficult it appeared that we would be able to see the elk after all.
We ultimately decided to head over to Estes Lake to secure a camp site at the KOA. Nice place with luxurious restrooms, never seen anything like it! Private climate controlled rooms as nice as your bathroom at home, each complete with your own shower… amazing!!!
4:00 a.m. was the wake-up time to make it to Moraine Park by 5:00 where we would wait in the cold until sunrise at 6:30, a scene to be repeated four straight days.
Unfortunately the huge herds of elk never materialized. I don’t know if many never returned after last year’s devastating fires or if the conflagration had altered their routine. In any case we saw a few elk each morning and evening while searching in vain for the Sprague Lake moose before leaving the Corridor.
We whiled the afternoons away by traversing Trail Ridge and crossing over to Poudre Lake to search for the elusive moose. There was an old broken down cow convalescing there but she was in no mood for accommodating the hoard of photographers eager to capture her likeness. She was content to relax in the tall grass, out of the view of our prying lenses.
One afternoon we lucked out and spotted a cow feeding in some unmarked beaver ponds near a picnic area. She watched us watch her for about an hour before wandering off. Others told us there was also a calf so we returned a couple of hours later after lunch but both animals had disappeared by then.
Each day began the same, at 0400 as we became more and more weary from the short cold nights as we slowly added to our collection of wildlife images. The third morning was our most successful as we found ourselves in the midst of a frenzied herd of cows and four bulls.
I was able to capture some awesome video of the crazy scene, the likes of which I’d never seen. Normally a bull will fight to the death to keep intruders out, but this herd had four bulls apparently working together to manage one herd. Once again I wonder, did the terrible fire result in some kind of unknown survival technique we were previously unaware of? There is also a complete video of my adventure in the park including the exciting drive up Fall River Road, a couple of waterfalls and of course all the wildlife!
Our week in the park is regrettably over with, I always feel a twinge of sadness when I have to leave this photographer’s paradise. Now that I’m retired though I really should make the effort to get there more often. A winter trip has long been on my to do list, perhaps this will be the year!
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